Wednesday, August 21, 2013


94 St Mark's Place, NY

Truth be told, I was afraid.

Though I was shielded by darkness in the audience, this was a room, where it felt like all eyes were upon you (and looking through you).

Everyone was unique. That’s the toughest audience you can possibly get. 

I mean, can you imagine if poet Tim Shea and Joe Yoga were to uniquely articulate thoughts about your art? Art is always in mixed emotion so I’d not expect one flavor. Or, can you imagine Mike Milazzo playing guitar strings so hard, and you wondering if you worked hard enough for Art?   And what if you saw Killy Mockstar Dwyer creating physical illusions with dazzling movements, making you wonder if your art was even magical? And let’s face it, having a guy named “Satan” as a viewer can be intimidating. 

Unique people make you question a lot--and wonder in awe. 

So much could unexpectedly happen in 7 minutes. And so much did. 

If people were to ask, where can you find a place to be creatively versatile like  Patti Smith, this basement room would be it at Under St Mark's Theater where Penny's Open Mic has been staged every Tuesday for 6 years.  It’s not just because of sheer madness – people singing “Where Is My Mind?” – that Penny’s Open Mic poetically lasted this long. Not even Sandy  pummeling Manhattan lights could stop Penny's Open Mic on a Tuesday. 

I note: No power outage made “Somehwere in the Dark” look darker.  After Sandy, the  flag of piracy that said "Penny’s Open Mic" still waved outside Penny’s famed Ludlow  Street APT candlelit above a darkened bar sign. Power out.  

There’s something special about a stage that heralds uniqueness.

I’ve written three times already on Penny’s Open Mic, inspired by a different muse each time that came with the night. For the final  night of Penny’s Open Mic,  I didn’t want to reminisce about what was written because who repeats an act on a stage that is all about uniqueness?

But this is true. When I wrote those 3 pieces about Penny’s Open Mic, I didn’t tell anyone. I was truly afraid of what so many unique talents would think--even after I’d written a well-received piece about that night of “Risk." The second piece on "Avant Garde" night was  in the style of surrealism, fragmented like a Picasso painting. Did it work out? I didn’t know.

I’d wait months – sometimes half a year – before people would discover the writing posted quietly. They’d say they liked it or loved it, and until then,  I thought no one did.

A writer hears a voice to write but sometimes you think only you understand that voice. That’s the nature of unique.

They’ll be a lot of people who are tone deaf to the voice of unique.

But not on this stage. People who are unlike you will like you. Their differences will sharpen your work, making it edgier.  

Penny Pollak is magic. I always say she should be the Mayor of New York because she knows how to host “unique.” After  6 years, she'll be doing it one last Tuesday, August 27, 2013. 

She'll be having a new exciting creative chapter next. It’s no surprise American X director Tony Kaye is making the film Abigail with Penny. They are two individuals who break the mold.

Who doesn’t love Penny’s creativity, spirit and blue jacket found on the fence?  Not to mention her fire breathing.

She uniquely can make a small space seem so big, turning a bathtub into a stage.  Winnipeg and Scotland know.

* * *

Her eyes didn't just look at you.
They sent a spirit into you and you suddenly performed. 

The underground is not about press. But I’ll tell ya, the press wrote stuff they never write for any place else:

"Possibly the best venue in New York City for performers who like to take risks." 
 ~ CBS 
 “Every Tuesday night, in a tiny theater hidden below a busy East Village street, some of the city’s most inventive minds take the stage.”  ~ New York Magazine.

And I say, in my lifetime, it’s the best deal in New York ever. For $3, you will see crafty words and performances from people who believe:

* * *

I had writer’s block on what to write one last time for Penny’s Open Mic. Then the  muse finally came.  

"nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping"

I was inspired by Killy Mockstar Dwyer’s speech for Revelation night at Penny's Open Mic:

I think one, if not the most important revelation that I came to gradually over my time at Penny's Open Mic, is that I truly wanted do something that no one else is doing. To strive every day for that almost impossible goal, anyway. I wanted to be an entirely unique artist and entertainer. To be incomparable. I think after more than 6 years of trial, error, success and failure, I am pretty damn close. I'm not really a comedian. I'm not exactly a musician. I'm not an actress or a dancer or a puppeteer or a filmmaker. I'm a imperfectly perfect amalgamation of all of those things and more. I'm someone that rebels against fitting in and following a path. With the help of Penny and Penny's Open Mic I blazed my own zigzagging, bumpy, beautiful winding road, flanked with the lovely graffiti of experience, failure, love, support, time, bravery and risk - with lifelong friends to hold my hand along the way. There aren't words that offer my gratitude for the space to fall and fly - "jump and the net will appear". There is only the still forming, ever changing artist that stands before the audience wherever I land, giving 110% of everything I am and the residual experience of every performance I had the esteemed honor to witness and learn from in a underground, black box theater on St. Marks street.”

She was the hardest act to describe.  So in that regard, that’s how unique she’s been. Words do not exist yet to describe her. 

* * * 

Addendum -  Week #314 straight, Penny's Open Mic #314.  68 people showed up to perform. 

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